Put Me in Coach
Dudes in the D-League are ready to play.
Not everyone can successfully make the jump from high school to the NBA the way Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James did. And one-and-done wonders such as Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose are the exceptions, not the rule.
Most have to put in work, serious work, to get a gig in the League. And that’s where the NBA Developmental League comes into play. Basketball’s equivalent to the minors in baseball gives cats a chance to catch on with teams at the next level.
There’s been plenty of players that have taken the D-League route at some point during their respective careers. Count Aaron Brooks as one of the many. The Birdman, Chris Andersen, too. Andray Blatche and Matt Barnes have been there, done that.
Trust us, the list goes on and on.
That said, here’s a look at some of the top talent the D-League has to offer, in our humble opinion of course. Think of it as a makeshift starting five. In fact, one of these individuals could end up in the NBA before all is said and done this season.
Mustafa Shakur | 6-3 | PG | Tulsa 66ers
Curtis Stinson, Will Conroy and Andre Barrett might have better overall numbers, but we like Shakur‘s statistics: 20.1 points, 6.7 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game. Most might recall him from his days as a college floor general at Arizona. In 2006, Shakur entered his name in the NBA Draft before deciding to return for his senior season with the Wildcats. His goal, no doubt, is to be remembered for his ability to run the show in the League. Whether that happens or not remains to be scene.
Reggie Williams | 6-6 | SG | Sioux Falls Skyforce
Plan and simple, every team out there could use a scorer. And Williams can fill it up, flat out fill it up. He’s third in the D-League in scoring, averaging 25.8 a contest, on get this, 56 percent shooting. With 11 games of 30 or more points and a pair of efforts of 40 or more, what’s not to like? Then again, we can’t imagine him duplicating those types of efforts while having to guard the top twos on a nightly basis in the NBA. Nevertheless, Williams is an intriguing prospect, to be sure.
Carlos Powell | 6-7 | SF | Albuquerque Thunderbirds
Many believe he’s ready, capable of coming in and making a contribution for someone, somewhere. Maybe overseas. Whatever the case, it should be known that Powell does a little bit of everything, most of it extremely well. Averages of 22.1 points, 4.9 assists and 4.8 rebounds every time he steps out on the court is a good indication of that. A 49 percent clip from the floor certainly doesn’t hurt matters. As far as we’re concerned, it’s just a matter of time before he gets the chance to show what he can do.
Alexander Johnson | 6-10 | PF | Sioux Falls Skyforce
Has already had a cup of coffee in the League, with Memphis and Miami a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, Johnson couldn’t parlay those experiences into a full-time job. That fact, however, hasn’t prevented him from doing whatever it takes to make it back to the League. Determination best explains his 23.8 point and 11.1 rebounds a game this season. Knowing the ropes, the ins-and-outs, gives him an advantage over his counterparts and it will be interesting to see if that plays a role in a promotion.
Dwayne Jones | 6-11 | C | Austin Toros
At one point, he looked like a lock to join Dallas, especially when Erick Dampier was dealing with all those injuries. The recent addition of Brendan Haywood might have put a damper on his chances of donning a Mavericks uniform though. Nevertheless, his resume speaks for itself. Jones is averaging 16.8 points, 14.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per contest. Throw in 62 percent from the field and it’s easy to understand why he might be in the back of the minds of the powers that be in the NBA.
Golden State has dipped into the D-League talent pool this season, calling up four players, Chris Hunter, Cartier Martin, Coby Karl and Anthony Tolliver.
And we’re sure everyone knows about Sundiata Gaines, one of the feel-good stories of the year. Back in mid-January, he came off the bench for Utah in the waning moments if its game against the Cavs and knocked down the game-winner, a three-pointer, in front of a nationally televised audience on TNT.
Talk about storybook endings. Or beginnings, for that matter.
Within the last month, four players have the received all-important call up.
When Joakim Noah went down with plantar fascitis, Chris Richard got a shot with Chicago. Trevor Ariza’s hip pointer led to Garrett Temple landing in Houston. Antonio Anderson is auditioning in Oklahoma City with the hopes of making it on the big stage. And on Wednesday, the Wizards hooked up Mike Harris in the nation’s capital, Washington D.C.
So yes, there are some guys with game in the D-League.
Honestly, I’d be remiss without mentioning someone from out in my neck of the woods, sunny Southern California, before finishing up this feature.
The dude’s name is Dar Tucker, a 6-4 guard for the Los Angeles D-Fenders. Had the opportunity to see him in action a couple times too, right before several of the Lakers’ games at Staples Center, and he can play. No doubt about it.
Anyway, he got his share of publicity for his legit hops during All-Star Weekend when he dunked over a 7-footer, Brian Butch, to win the D-League’s version of the Slam Dunk contest.
For the record, it was a sick finish, far better and more creative than anything Nate Robinson, Shannon Brown, DeMar DeRozan or Gerald Wallace did during their days in Texas.
Now, I’m not saying his high-flying routine will earn him some playing time alongside the likes of Kobe, Pau Gasol and Ron Artest anytime soon. That’ be unreasonable. In the grand scheme of things, Tucker might not ever ball with the big boys. It’s a fact many players learn to deal with.
Tucker, however, is on the radar.
And therein lies the key. For those who won’t take no for an answer, the D-League offers a unique opportunity. It’s that one last chance for players to keep chasing their dreams of making it to the NBA.
It’s not about where you start. It’s where you finish. Word is born.